Business as unusual: Papua New Guinea companies adapt to the State of Emergency


How is the 14-day state of emergency (SOE) affecting Papua New Guinea businesses? That all depends on the business you are in. Business Advantage PNG does a sector-by-sector breakdown.

Waigani Central shopping centre. Credit: BAI

Papua New Guinea is currently in a 14-day state of emergency with businesses in lockdown, following the country’s first official case of COVID-19. The term is shorter and the clampdown swifter than some of its neighbours, but Australia has shown that it does not take long in this new environment to completely reshape how you do business.

The lack of any new cases was again confirmed at the weekend.

John Byrne from the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that his city was attempting to get the balance right between protecting people’s health and keeping business operating.

‘It is foolish to believe that at the end of 14 days of SOE, the switch will turn back on and it will be life and business as usual,’ Byrne said. ‘Will there be pain and adjustments required? Without doubt.’

So what is happening to PNG’s businesses under the current restrictions?


For the banks and super funds it is largely business as usual since they have been classified as an essential service.

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Telcos face the challenge of more pressure on their services with the shift to working from home, with the need to try to operate with less staff. PNG DataCo says it is maintaining a ‘skeleton staff’ but it aim to ‘ensure business continuity through settlement of all critical commitments’. Face-to-face meetings and travel have been suspended during PNG’s lockdown – that means they cannot connect new customers at this time.

‘The real threat to the nation lies in the impending economic disaster. Our economy is paper thin.’


Being a broad church, manufacturers are reacting differently to the PNG lockdown though most are making sure that employees work remotely where they can; non-essential shopfronts have closed to be replaced by deliveries. There are also temperature checks on staff and paid leaves of absence being pushed on to staff, long-service leave is also being suggested where possible. Some manufacturers have reported that up to 70 per cent of staff have been sent home during the initial 14-day lockdown period.

Companies producing in-demand items have reported an initial surge in demand but do not expect it to last.

Liquor bans are having a negative effect on brewers, with concerns the bans may be extended.


Brian Bell distribution centre

Panic buying has meant an initial bump for some retailers with stores still performing well but with any extended lockdown in PMG there is an anticipation of lost revenues. The ICCC Commissioner and CEO, Paulus Ain, says he is on the look out for unnecessary profiteering in the sector announcing inspections of basic goods prices.

‘The ICCC advises all consumers to report to the ICCC any shops or business houses who have increased their prices and are practicing price gouging on certain goods,’ Ain said. He added that fines could range from K50,000 to K100,000 and include jail time.


Security providers are reporting an increase in enquiries for security services during the State of Emergency.

‘It’s the nature of the industry that it tends to prosper in uncertain times,’ one security provider told us. ‘The government has done a good job on the whole, copying best practice in other countries to limit the consequences.’

‘We have increased our security in key locations with additional static guards including K-9 so we are ahead of the curb,’ said one retailer. ‘Hopefully there are enough resources to deal with any escalated security issues.’


The resource sector is working swiftly to test staff since the first case of COVID-19 was in a foreign mine worker, but they are attempting to continue working to avoid dire economic consequences. It may not be business as usual but there are attempts to keep the sector moving. Said one resources executive: ‘A lot will depend on whether there are reports of the virus transmitting person-to-person in PNG.’


  1. Allan Wawah says

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) is deadly and destructive to human lives. The PNG government’s bold stance on lockdown should be supported and commended. If there is a need to prolonge the lockdown, we should flow along with the government. This is because there is no confirm vacine that could heal the world from the coronavirus challenge.

    Although local SMEs and even foreign direct investments may loose income generation, Papua New Guineans can not compromise our safety, environment and health for loss revenue/businesses. There is no spare parts nor vacine available as yet. Money can not even buy lives currently. Congratulations to PNG government for the 14 days lock down decision and its implementation. This is a great and right move towards controlling mortality that may be related to coronavirus complications.

    Businesses can always be resilent after coronavirus challenge ends. This is largely dependent on the invention, endorsement and distribution of vacinnes that may heal the world.

    On the same token, let us commend our God in heaven for his endless love, care, grace and protection over PNG. God bless PNG.

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